NLL Media Poll Four – Making a Case

0
SHARE
Logan Schuss 2017 Vancouver Stealth vs Colorado Mammoth Photo: Garrett James / Vancouver Stealth
Photo: Garrett James / Vancouver Stealth

Authors’ Notes: Welcome back to another NLL Media Poll. We got fed up with lacrosse’s lack of polls that tie together multiple media sources, so we made one ourselves. This poll features votes from Inside Lacrosse, the Lax Power computer, and Tyson Geick of the NLL, along with our own Mark Donahue and Ryan Conwell. The bulk of the articles are tag-teamed by Mark and Ryan.

Five teams will stay put this week’s NLL Media Poll. I won’t spoil anything, but if there’s one thing we learned last weekend, you don’t have to be a wily veteran to put the ball in the back of the net. Just ask American Brent Adams. Playing in just his third NLL game, Adams took the ball to the house three times on Sunday. If his first goal, and first hat trick, weren’t enough, he sealed the deal with an overtime dagger and five total points. Brent, you’re now on the radar!

Adams’ hot stick wasn’t the only one burning over the weekend. Georgia worked their way past New England after a 10 point performance by Lyle Thompson (4+6) along with three-straight goals in 2.5 minutes, at the end of the 4th quarter, by Jordan Hall to steal the lead back and finish things off with the home win.

Voter’s Opinion

IL Indoor didn’t feel like making any big moves this time, confident that their rankings from last week were good enough to stick to the teams again. For the first time in the season, Ryan and Mark actually see eye-to-eye when it comes to how the seasons are shaking out for all nine teams.

The great computer at Lax Power refuses to let the Black Wolves’ heads above water, still holding them at the bottom.

Machines may own us one day. For now, all humans have to agree that New England has a lot more value at the moment. And while Tyson doesn’t like the stench coming out of the Stealth locker room, it’s a game of averages.

The rest of the gang agree that the Buffalo Bandits have to be the worst team in the NLL Media Poll at the moment. So that’s where we start.

9. Buffalo Bandits (0)

Buffalo Bandits at New England Black Wolves NLL 2017 Photo: Ryan Conwell
Photo: Ryan Conwell / LaxAllStars.com

Record: 1-4
Next Game: vs. New England – Friday, February 17th 7:30pm ET
Goals: Ryan Benesch – 12 (T-13th)
Assists: Ryan Benesch – 17 (14th)
Points: Ryan Benesch – 29 (T-11th)

Buffalo didn’t play, so it’s a little hard to move them in the rankings. They also haven’t done enough to consider shaming other teams for losing by bumping them up. Unless you’re Tyson Geick, in which case, shame on Vancouver.

Next weekend will be a doubleheader with the Black Wolves, which should make for a fun (but tiring) time. New England was just a late run from a 3-3 record, three straight wins, and a win over the Swarm. It didn’t happen. Now the Wolves are fired up and appear focused on the home-and-away series this weekend.

We really hope the veterans used the time to relax while the young guns studied up on their film. We are likely to see two different rosters, and goalies, from Buffalo this weekend. Everyone needs to be dialed in to the game plan and stick with it if they wan’t to scratch in another W sometime soon.

8. Vancouver Stealth (0)

NLL Media Poll 2017 Vancouver Stealth vs Colorado Mammoth Photo: Garrett James / Vancouver Stealth
Photo: Garrett James / Vancouver Stealth

Record: 2-5
Next Game: @ Calgary – Saturday, February 18th 9:00pm ET
Goals: Logan Schuss + Rhys Duch – 18 (T-2nd)
Assists: Corey Small – 31 (1st)
Points: Corey Small – 48 (1st)

Aside from Mammoth fans, how could anyone not feel so bad for Vancouver after losing at home in OT? They were just less than a minute from securing a win over divisional foe Colorado, but just could not do it. True, face-off specialist Brendan Fowler probably shouldn’t have taken a shot with about 40 seconds left. But at the same time, it isn’t like they were just going to run out the clock and win. The what-ifs might eat away at this team, but they are not far out of the mix. There is plenty of season left for the Stealth to get into the right position.

Obviously something is going right on the offensive side of the floor. Corey Small is a clear first in points and assists and racing up his his heels are teammates Logan Schuss and Rhys Duch, tied for 2nd, but fighting to pass Dickson in overall goals. They have the most powerplay goals (26), but they also have the most attempts (46) and a good chunk of the time they aren’t finishing them. On the other end, they have the worst penalty kill, the worst shorthanded goals allowance (6), and have put in the least amount of short-handers (0). Their duo of goaltenders are scraping the bottom when it comes to goals against average. The entire defensive group only has 2 goals, 9 if you count transition.

Things are going downhill fast after that hot 2-0 start. The Stealth took down Calgary before in that first leg. Then the Riggers got their revenge. Now Vancouver really needs to do it again to ensure they go at least .500 against the Roughnecks for the season. More importantly, to get some positive morale back in the locker room to keep their boat afloat in the West.

7. Rochester Knighthawks (-1)

Saskatchewan Rush at Rochester Knighthawks Photo: Micheline V/ Rochester Knighthawks NLL Media Poll 2017
Photo: Micheline V/ Rochester Knighthawks

Record: 2-4
Next Game: vs. Toronto – Saturday, February 18th 7:30pm ET
Goals: Josh Currier – 10 (T-19th)
Assists: Kyle Jackson – 15 (T-16th)
Points: Kyle Jackson – 23 (T-22nd)

The Knighthawks just got through a beating from Saskatchewan and now they have to turn around and face Toronto. Oy vey.

No one is particularly great right now and just when they could puff up their chests with Jammer back, he was just as quickly taken away. Rookies Kyle Jackson and Josh Currier are showing a lot of promise already for the franchise. Jackson is atop in assists and points, while Currier leads in goals. Behind them is Joe Resetarits, unexpectedly, nearly halfway to his 2016 totals. Then we find another rookie, Dan Lomas, sitting in 4th before we even get to names like Keogh and Dawson (both missing 2 games).

You shouldn’t be too worried about Matt Vinc getting chased for Angus Goodleaf last weekend. Once the flood gates were opened, it was a 14-2 run before Rochester could score again and there was only so much that a goalie was going to do about it. There’s times when they aren’t getting what they need out of their elder defensemen and entire backend of the floor turns to Swiss cheese. The Knighthawks are just so inconsistent right now, but head coach Mike Hasen still isn’t worried. Talking to him in New England, he acknowledged what he was getting into with such a young roster.

These are certainly some early stumbles for Rochester and the looming game with Toronto is probably not the answer right now. Turning around and going to Georgia for a Sunday night showdown, while starting a 3-game road trip, is even worse. On the bright side if they go out and win both, they’ll be a complete step ahead in the East. Godspeed.

6. New England Black Wolves (+1)

Georgia Swarm vs New England Black Wolves 2017 NLL Media Poll Photo: Paul Sasso / Georgia Swarm
Photo: Paul Sasso / Georgia Swarm

Record: 2-4
Next Game: @ Buffalo – Friday, February 17th 7:30pm ET
Goals: Kevin Crowley – 16 (8th)
Assists: Shawn Evans – 25 (5th)
Points: Shawn Evans – 38 (6th)

If the Black Wolves were old men, they’d probably shake their fists a lot. New England really needed that win in Georgia. They’re not in terrible shape in the standings, but the gap between them and the top just became a little bit larger. If Buffalo continues to underperform this weekend in their double header, things will be looking much better for New England.

They get to use the home and away stretch to get back on track and potentially even out their record. They’re on the hot seat, because a couple of lousy games can send them spiraling faster than they got here. It’s tough to swallow the pill that they’re a 2-4 after the turnaround they started. The computer doesn’t like them, but we do.

The defense has calmed down quite a bit and their presence is finally starting to shake up even the best offenses. The problem is when they spring a leak, it starts a flood. Three-straight goals from the stick of Jordan Hall quickly ripped down all that they built in really a matter of seconds. Lyle caused them Hell and they know his game well.

On the plus side, they’ve figured out their style of transition game and recognized the lack of firepower on the run. The top six points accumulators are seasoned veterans, they have the knowhow and ability to great things. It’s all about if they can just string it together across the floor for 60 minutes. The Wolves could start to breathe easier come Monday, or go grasping for oxygen tanks. Next stop, Buffalo.

5. Colorado Mammoth (0)

NLL Media Poll 2017 Vancouver Stealth vs Colorado Mammoth Photo: Garrett James / Vancouver Stealth
Photo: Garrett James / Vancouver Stealth

Record: 4-3
Next Game: @ Saskatchewan – Saturday, February 18th 8:30pm ET
Goals: Eli McLaughlin + Zack Greer – 13 (T-10th)
Assists: Callum Crawford – 28 (3rd)
Points:  Callum Crawford – 39 (5th)

You have to give Colorado some big time credit for coming away with the win in Vancouver. There was plenty of time left, but they scored the goal when they needed to. Also, huge props to Brent Adams. He scored his first NLL goal earlier in the game and the game winner in overtime on a nearly identical move. He used his speed to cut across the crease between defenders and get a shot off nearly untouched. Not too shabby.

Callum Crawford is still maintaining his terror streak from last year, a third of the way to his 115 point high mark last season. Like Crawford did last year, Zack Greer is acclimating to the Mammoth sweater quite nicely. His well balanced 13 goals, 14 assists start has him second on the Colorado points list, tied with McLaughlin for first in goals.

We got another good outing from Dillon Ward, going over 80%. Strong goaltending is the final key in games where the defense keeps the shots limited, and the scoring at 10 goals or less. The defensive group is going to have a major test against the Saskatchewan shooters this weekend. The hardest challenge may be covering the floor to stop some of the bullets from their defense in transition.

Once they get Junior back in the lineup things will be even better for these guys. Considering how many games they’ve lost to injury as a whole, things could be a lot worse. Going on the road to Saskatoon, in addition to New England the following weekend are no easy chores. These road games will give us all a real idea of the Mammoth we’re working with.

4. Calgary Roughnecks (0)

Photo: Calgary Roughnecks vs Toronto Rock NLL Media Poll 2017 Jeff Shattler
Photo: Calgary Roughnecks

Record: 3-3
Next Game: vs. Vancouver – Saturday, February 18th 9:00pm ET
Goals: Curtis Dickson – 22 (1st)
Assists: Wes Berg + Jeff Shattler – 20 (T-8th)
Points: Curtis Dickson – 37 (7th)

So far, it’s looking like the Riggers aren’t a team built to dig their way out of holes. Calgary was down early to Toronto and just could not come back. They (mostly Curtis Dickson) really tried giving it a go, but just fell short. They’ve only got a small core of guys that can really takeover a lacrosse game, yet no one is taking the task.

By averages, the Roughnecks earned the #4 spot on the top half of the pack. Yet, if there’s one thing you should know, rankings mean nothing and this team is starting to make us all a little nervous. Their potential is high, but their consistency is low. Each time you think they’ve turned it around and are going to be one of the best teams in the league, a game like this happens. The Roughnecks are infamous for squeaking through the season, sliding into the Playoffs and rolling their dice from there. From lack of Champion’s Cup appearances lately, it’s safe to say this shouldn’t be the recipe.

When Tyler Digby is dialed in, he’s absolutely lethal. When Dickson gets in a groove, he’s a force to be reckoned with. When Scigliano is seeing the ball well, he’s a brick wall. If they can capitalize on their strengths and keep the whole team hot for an entire game, we’ll start to see those “whens” turn to “wins.”

3. Georgia Swarm (-1)

Georgia Swarm vs New England Black Wolves 2017 NLL Media Poll Photo: Paul Sasso / Georgia Swarm
Photo: Paul Sasso / Georgia Swarm

Record: 5-1
Next Game: @ Toronto – Friday, February 17th 7:30pm ET
Goals: Lyle Thompson – 18 (T-2nd)
Assists: Jordan Hall + Lyle Thompson – 22 (T-6th)
Points: Lyle Thompson – 40 (4th)

There’s something about the connection between the two recently relocated franchises. Now, after last weekend’s thriller, this pairing is really starting to bud into a nice little rivalry.

If you make a Venn diagram, you’ll start to see plenty of overlapping areas. The teams have dealt players back and forth in trades, there’s a TBL connection with Georgia’s Thompson brothers vs. New England’s Bill O’Brien, they are both relatively new teams in town, and they’re both fighting to put butts in seats for their respective arenas, both in non-traditional box lacrosse areas.

The Swarm answered a big five goal run by the Black Wolves in the fourth quarter with a four goal run of their own. It was mentioned earlier that former Black Wolf, Jordan Hall took over the game in the final frame and punched in three-straight goals of his own to steal the lead back. The final nail was driven into the coffin from none other than Lyle Thompson, capping off 4 goals and 6 assists in the game. This battle was extremely close throughout and the final minutes were just as intense. New England had been clawing their way up the NLL Media Poll and playing with all new life. The close win wasn’t a result of the Swarm starting to slip, but rather the tight result of being matched with a formidable opponent.

Beyond consistent goaltending from Mike Poulin, Georgia stays reliant upon consistently putting up the ball into the net. They’re allowing a high number of goal against, but when they tiptoe near 20 goals in a night, there’s very few teams with the youthfulness and firepower to hang with them to the end. They will have to turn it up on the defensive side if they want to avoid more close calls like they had with Vancouver and again with New England.

Their record will stand as one of the best in the league, but they aren’t getting back to that top spot for a while if they can’t knock of the Rock this weekend.

2. Saskatchewan Rush (+1)

Saskatchewan Rush at Rochester Knighthawks Photo: Micheline V/ Rochester Knighthawks NLL Media Poll 2017
Photo: Micheline V/ Rochester Knighthawks

Record: 4-2
Next Game: vs. Colorado – Saturday, February 18th 8:30pm ET
Goals: Mark Matthews & Robert Church – 17 (T-6th)
Assists: Mark Matthews – 29 (2nd)
Points: Mark Matthews – 46 (2nd)

Knock, knock? Who is…OBVIOUSLY the Rush! We knew they wouldn’t waste time climbing the ladder and they aren’t going to slow their roll yet. Beating anyone by nine goals is just flat out impressive in this league. Sure, the Knighthawks are struggling, but they’re not lose by nine goals struggling. For the most part, they’ve been keeping teams at 10 goals or less, except for Saskatchewan.

There were a ton of penalties in this one, but that really didn’t matter for Rochester since the damage was already done. Letting anyone go on a 10-0 run is going to lead to some frustration, and the Knighthawks showed it. They play the entire 60 minutes as a team and that’s why the scoresheet shows multiple notches in the points column for just about every guy. The backline features bar none the best on, and off, ball defenders in the NLL, but the group also has legs and hands for days. They can burn just about anyone in transition and carry so much speed that the goalies are struggling to slow them down.

When the defense isn’t busy stealing the ball and stretching the floor, the offense comes out to play. What Mark Matthews is doing with the ball is absolutely absurd. A full head taller than most, his vision across the floor let’s him see the play many steps ahead. He’s got to be one of the best passers to ever hit the floor and when there’s no one there, he has no qualms about burying it himself. Robert Church has matched feet with him in the goals category (17), but the entire grouping of starting forwards are all averaging multiple points per game. It’s a group of all-stars playing like a real team. Pro lacrosse would look more like this if the players lived and practiced in their cities during the week, which these guys don’t.

We’re sure that Colorado is feeling good about themselves after the big overtime win, even if it was over Vancouver. The SaskTel Centre will be rocking again this weekend. Even if it wasn’t for their rowdy 7th man, we’d still bank on the Rush continuing to roll over the West.

1. Toronto Rock (0)

Brad Kri Photo: Calgary Roughnecks vs Toronto Rock NLL Media Poll 2017
Photo: Calgary Roughnecks

Record: 4-1
Next Game: vs. Georgia – Friday, February 17th 7:30pm ET
Goals: Brett Hickey – 12 (T-13th)
Assists: Tom Schreiber – 20 (T-8th)
Points: Tom Schreiber – 29 (T-11th)

We talked about the lights-out performances from Lyle, Hall and Adams, but how can we not point a big old spotlight straight at Tom Schreiber? He’s getting attention from anyone keeping their eyes on the NLL, but he still deserves more! We’ve got to remember this team was straight up bad in 2016. With a rich fanbase, a deep history, and placement in the box lacrosse mecca, the knew something had to change. How they knew field lacrosse extraordinaire Tom Schreiber was the key is a secret for Dawick and company to hold close to their hearts.

Last weekend, Schreiber was the first to score, first to take back the lead, the only Rock shooter to hit a hat trick, and their overall point leader (6). It’s not just a “Paul Rabil scenario” where they took an animal athlete, gave him the ball and said, “put this in the net, however you want!” Tom is mastering the indoor game already, always with his head up, passes right to the mesh, and dominant when it comes to the draw/dump and two-man plays.

Yeah, Tom Schreiber is getting plenty of attention. But let’s all remember that it’s not just because he’s an American playing in the NLL. He’s leading the #1 team in points, while tied with legends like Kevin Crowley and Ryan Benesch for the season. He’s even one point ahead of the defending Rookie of the Year, Randy Staats. Not a bad spot to be in five games into your first season. Friday’s game will either be a convincing performance by the Rock to assert their dominance or an absolute barn-burning shootout. Either way, we can’t wait! Circle this one.

NLL Media Poll #4

Rank/Team/Previous

1. Toronto (1)
2. Saskatchewan (3)
3. Georgia (2)
4. Calgary (4)
5. Colorado (5)
6. New England (7)
7. Rochester (6)
8. Vancouver (8)
9. Buffalo (9)

NLL Media Poll Votes

Voters Mark Donahue (LAS) Ryan Conwell (LAS) Tyson Geick (NLL) Inside Lacrosse LaxPower
1 Toronto Toronto Toronto Georgia Toronto
2 Saskatchewan Saskatchewan Saskatchewan Toronto Georgia
3 Georgia Georgia Georgia Saskatchewan Saskatchewan
4 Colorado Colorado Calgary Calgary Calgary
5 Calgary Calgary Colorado Colorado Rochester
6 New England New England New England Rochester Vancouver
7 Rochester Rochester Rochester New England Colorado
8 Vancouver Vancouver Buffalo Vancouver Buffalo
9 Buffalo Buffalo Vancouver Buffalo New England

Agree? Disagree? Feel impartial to our media poll rankings and opinions? Let you voice be heard and sound off in the comments down below!